Project resource management refers to a set of integrated processes that enable project managers (possibly in conjunction with the PMO and other decision-makers) to determine, obtain, allocate, develop, and monitor the resources that are required to successfully complete a project.
According to the Project Management Institute’s Project Management Body of Knowledge (Sixth edition), there are six core processes related to resource management in project management:
- Plan Resource Management: determining how to estimate, obtain, manage, and use resources.
- Estimate Activity Resources: estimating required resources, including the type and amount of material, equipment, facilities, supplies, tools, and technologies that are required to effectively perform all project work.
- Acquire Resources: obtaining all resources – both team and physical – necessary to complete all project work.
- Develop Team: improving team member competence and interaction, in order to enhance project progress, productivity and results.
- Manage Team: monitoring the performance of various team members, and as necessary providing coaching, training, and direction to enhance individual and team performance.
- Control Resources: ensuring that resources are assigned to the project as per the plan, analyzing the variance between actual use vs. planned use, and implementing corrective action as required.
Overlap Between Project and Resource Management
It’s worth highlighting – especially for those who are new to the project management world – that there is a significant amount of overlap between project management and resource management. Or to put this another way, project resource management is a core piece of the larger project management puzzle.
For example, take the process of team management. In carrying out their duties, the project manager may determine that in terms of productivity the overall team is performing above expectations. This positive development, in turn, accelerates the schedule and puts the project on track to finish sooner than anticipated. Furthermore, the combination of more productive team members and a shorter project duration suggests that the project will cost less than expected. This is just one of many possible ways that details and dynamics related to resource management will impact and influence other aspects of the project – and vice versa.
A Deeper Look at Resource Planning in Project Management
While each of the integrated resource management processes highlighted above are important, arguably the most important – and indeed, the most challenging – is resource planning. Why is this the case? Essentially, it is because in most organizations, there is always more work and not enough human and physical resources to carry it out.
And if that were not enough to complicate matters, organizations are not static environments where everyone does the same thing, in the same way, and at the same speed. Rather, each group typically applies its own spin on resource management as it pertains to their respective business process. For example, some groups prefer to assign resources out of a centralized pool, while others prefer that this function is more decentralized.
With this in mind, there are some fundamental project resource management best practices that can help make the process simpler, streamlined and more successful:
- Smaller teams are typically advised to take a high-level resource planning approach. This allows project managers (and others are necessary) to assign resources without having to create detailed assignments. Using automation and templates can significantly accelerate the process.
- Larger teams are encouraged to take advantage of out-of-the-box tools that are available in their respective software solution (more on this in the next section). They can also use automation to establish a formal resource request process and enable group selection.
- Use a work breakdown structure (WBS) to clearly see the hierarchical structure of project activity. Ensure that each work package is broken-down into sufficient detail, to the level that it can be carried out or owned by a single resource. Keep in mind that a WBS is deliverables-based – not task-based. The purpose is not to identify the priority or order of tasks, which is captured by the schedule. Rather, the purpose is to identify the work that must be done in order to successfully complete the project.
- When developing estimates, consult with subject matter experts and other credible sources (e.g. project archives, etc.). In its 2018 Pulse of the Profession report [PDF], the Project Management Institute revealed that poor time estimating is responsible for 25 percent of failed projects. Data-based estimating can also help project managers avoid what is known as the “planning fallacy,” which refers to the psychological tendency for individuals to underestimate the amount of time a task will take to complete – especially if they have never done it before, and are relying primarily on assumptions, guestimates and gut feels.
- Avoid overloading team members. Burnout is not talent management or a personal issue. Rather, it is symptomatic of a broader organizational problem. Realistic resource allocation – which is an approach that appreciates the basic fact that human beings need an adequate amount of downtime and rest – goes a long way towards boosting team member engagement and productivity, and in the big picture helps drive project and organizational success.
Project Resource Management Software
Robust project resource management software plays a pivotal role in helping project managers effectively address the integrated processes that, ultimately, ensure that the right resources are available at the right time, at the right place, and for the right cost.
Class-leading software is intuitive and easy-to-use, syncs with other platforms and systems in the environment, and offers a range of project resource management tools. Key features include:
- Drag and drop functionality to assign and reassign tasks and projects.
- Clear visibility into resource loads (individuals and groups).
- Simulations to identify how resource-related changes will impact the project schedule.
- Reports, tables and graphs that identify scenarios in which resources are over-utilized or under-utilized.
- Notifying all resources (and other team members and stakeholders as appropriate) when assignments are added or changed.
- Facilitating collaboration with resources through dedicated online discussions vs. disconnected and ad hoc emails.
- Customized rules to automate resource planning, allocation and optimization.
- Templates to define a project plan that already includes a detailed work breakdown structure.
The Final Word
All projects are unique, whether the goal is to develop a new product, launch a marketing campaign, create an innovative IT solution, and the list goes on. However, there is one characteristic that all successful projects have in common: effective project resource management. Use the information above as a launching point to deepen your knowledge, and help you and your teams thrive!